Google ads, black names and white names, racial discrimination, and click advertising
Do online ads suggestive of arrest records appear more often with searches of black-sounding names than white-sounding names? What is a black-sounding name or white-sounding name, anyway? How many more times would an ad have to appear adversely affecting one racial group for it to be considered discrimination? Is online activity so ubiquitous that computer scientists have to think about societal consequences such as structural racism in technology design? If so, how is this technology to be built? Let’s take a scientific dive into online ad delivery to find answers.
“Have you ever been arrested?” Imagine this question appearing whenever someone enters your name in a search engine. Perhaps you are in competition for an award, a scholarship, an appointment, a promotion, or a new job, or maybe you are in a position of trust, such as a professor, a physician, a banker, a judge, a manager, or a volunteer. Perhaps you are completing a rental application, selling goods, applying for a loan, joining a social club, making new friends, dating, or engaged in any one of hundreds of circumstances for which someone wants to learn more about you online. Appearing alongside your list of accomplishments is an advertisement implying you may have a criminal record, whether you actually have one or not. Worse, the ads may not appear for your competitors.